Pro­fes­sor who served for Trump sues uni­ver­sity for po­lit­i­cal dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Be­ing tapped by the pres­i­dent to serve in a fed­eral post would nor­mally be viewed as huge ca­reer boost, but Whit­ney Bai­ley says her year with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion cost her pro­fes­sion­ally, and she blames it on pol­i­tics.

Mrs. Bai­ley has sued five Ok­la­homa State Uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors and fac­ulty mem­bers, ar­gu­ing that she was de­nied a pro­mo­tion to full pro­fes­sor and de­prived of teach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as a re­sult of her 13 months as a deputy ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

“Mrs. Bai­ley suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion at a public uni­ver­sity that has been in­tol­er­ant of her po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and af­fil­i­a­tions, but more specif­i­cally, her public ser­vice for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Ge­of­frey Ta­bor, a lawyer with Ward & Glass in Nor­man, Ok­la­homa, said in an email.

Ok­la­homa State de­nied that po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions were a fac­tor.

“There is no merit to this law­suit,” OSU said in a state­ment. “Par­ti­san pol­i­tics did not play any role in any de­ci­sion rel­a­tive to Dr. Bai­ley’s teach­ing po­si­tion and class sched­ule.”

An as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in OSU’s Depart­ment of Hu­man De­vel­op­ment and Fam­ily Sci­ence, Mrs. Bai­ley took a year of un­paid leave to serve in the ad­min­is­tra­tion start­ing in De­cem­ber 2017, con­sis­tent with the uni­ver­sity’s poli­cies on fac­ulty leaves of ab­sences.

A few months ear­lier, she be­gan the process of ap­ply­ing for a full pro­fes­sor­ship af­ter 13 years at OSU. De­spite pos­i­tive re­views, rec­om­men­da­tions and awards, she was re­jected on the same day as her de­par­ture from the fed­eral post.

“The fi­nal de­ci­sion in this pro­mo­tion process was ren­dered to me 47 min­utes prior to my leav­ing to serve in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” she said in an email.

Mrs. Bai­ley is a Repub­li­can, while the provost, dean and three pro­fes­sors in charge of de­cid­ing on her pro­mo­tion were Democrats who made no se­cret of their dim views of the pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

One pro­fes­sor com­pared a Trump of­fi­cial to a “fic­tional movie vil­lain.” Stephan Wil­son, dean of the Col­lege of Hu­man Sciences, “has a myr­iad of Face­book posts that read­ily demon­strate his dis­dain for Pres­i­dent Trump, Repub­li­cans, and any­one that aligns with Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion,” the com­plaint said.

Gary San­de­fur, provost and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of aca­demic af­fairs, “has been highly crit­i­cal of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in gen­eral, those who voted for Pres­i­dent Trump in 2016, and those who ap­pear in­clined to vote for Pres­i­dent Trump again in 2020,” said the law­suit.

Af­ter Mr. Trump was elected in Novem­ber 2016, OSU of­fered coun­sel­ing to em­ploy­ees “who were hav­ing dif­fi­culty deal­ing with Trump’s elec­tion as Pres­i­dent of the United States.”

OSU de­clined fur­ther com­ment af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Times reached out to the five uni­ver­sity of­fi­cials named in the law­suit.

“The in­di­vid­u­als named in the pe­ti­tion are em­ploy­ees of Ok­la­homa State Uni­ver­sity and the al­le­ga­tions re­late to their work for the Uni­ver­sity,” said the OSU state­ment. “OSU is ob­li­gated to as­sist with the le­gal de­fense of claims made against its em­ploy­ees act­ing within the course and scope of their em­ploy­ment, and as such will pro­vide le­gal sup­port for th­ese in­di­vid­u­als. Be­cause this is a le­gal mat­ter, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment fur­ther.”

Mrs. Bai­ley has also filed a tort claim against the uni­ver­sity, which could be added later to the law­suit.

“If the tort claim is de­nied by the uni­ver­sity, we will be amend­ing the suit to in­clude the uni­ver­sity as a named de­fen­dant based on state law le­gal the­o­ries,” Mr. Ta­bor said.

The law­suit filed Nov. 18 in Payne County District Court seeks at least $75,000 for eco­nomic loss and noneco­nomic dam­ages, in­clud­ing “hu­mil­i­a­tion, em­bar­rass­ment, [and] in­jury to rep­u­ta­tion.”

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